Ten Ways Crooks Steal Your Identity
In the electronic age, your identity
Identity Theft ~ Are You Safe?
Learn How to Protect Yourself.
is represented by the set of numbers and codes that describe you. Name, date of birth, Social Security number, credit card numbers, bank account number and motherís maiden name are all thatís necessary to impersonate you and make transactions in your name. A new breed of criminals who donít carry weapons are exploiting the system for their own benefit. Their crime is called identity theft.
"But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed." - Shakespeare, Othello
Identity Theft Is the Fastest Growing Crime in America
What actually is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. According to the FTC, more than 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. This is the fastest growing crime in America. Identity theft is an absolute epidemic. In 1998, Congress made identity theft a federal offense.
In cases of identity theft,
the victim often has to prove his or her innocence. This astonishes most new identity theft victims. They naturally expect the police, the credit grantors, the credit-reporting agencies and others in high places to help them. Maybe it should be that wayÖbut often it isn't.
How Thieves Use Your Stolen Identity
For the criminal, identity theft
is a relatively low-risk, high-reward endeavor. By impersonating you, the skilled thief can steal thousands of dollars in the victimís name without being discovered for months or even years. Here are some of the ways thieves use your stolen identity:
- With a counterfeit ATM card or debit card thieves could withdraw everything from your bank account.
- Identity thieves could open a bank account in your name and write bad checks.
- Identity thieves could take out a loan or a mortgage in your name.
- Identity thieves might take a job using your social security number.
- Identity thieves may open a new phone or store account in your name, or run up charges on your existing account.
- Identity thieves might use your ID to get medical treatment.
- Identity thieves may get a driver's license issued in your name but with their picture.
- If they are arrested, they may give your personal information to police. When they skip bail and leave town, a warrant for arrest would be issued in your name.
All of these devastating scenarios are possible as the result of identity theft.
Identity Theft ~ Ten Ways Crooks Steal Your Identity
For an identity theft, it is easy to find information online. You can find a Social Security number online for any living person for $49 at DocuSearch.com. Other Internet sites have more information about you. For $150 NetDetective 2000 will provide all the info you ever want to know, including date of birth, salary, social security number, everyone youíve ever married, police records, elementary school, high school and college.
Thieves also like to steal the identity
of a person recently deceased. The Mormon geneology site, familysearch.org, is the third largest database in the world. The site will give you date of birth, date of death and social Security number, along with the last five cities the person lived in prior to his death. Yes, it is legal to compile this information and offer it for sale. The information comes from publicly available sources and government records.
Identity Theft by Pretexting
If thieves know your cell phone number and Social Security number, they can often get your phone records by pretending to be you. With your identity data, they can get financial information by pretending to be you.
Identity Theft by Shoulder Surfing
Identity thieves may watch you as you punch in your telephone calling card number or credit card number. They may listen in on your conversation when you give your credit-card number over the telephone to a hotel or rental car company. While you fill out a check, an identity thief could memorize the info on a check while you fill it out. These tactics are called ďShoulder Surfing.Ē
Identity Theft from Business Records
Your bank, your stockbroker, your doctor and your phone company have a good set of identity records. If you served in the military, your complete identity data, including bank account number for direct deposit of your pay is in the records. Identity thieves are known to bribe data clerks for insider information.
Identity Theft by Dumpster Diving
Thieves often rummage through trash looking for a bill or other paper with your personal information on it.
Identity Theft by Skimming
Thieves steal credit and debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card. The staff at the posh new restaurant could be skimming your credit card number while you wait.
Identity Theft from Mailboxes
Your mailbox sitting on a post out at the curb is an open invitation to identity thieves. January is the best month for identity thieving, when mailboxes are full of tax documents from employers, banks, brokerage houses and the government. Those ubiquitous pre-approved credit card applications can be stolen from your mailbox. Even mail order catalogues are valuable to identity thieves, because they use the preprinted account number to order merchandise.
Identity Theft using Surveys and Marketing Cards
After you bought your new TV, did you filled out a product warranty card? It asks for date of birth, marital status, home ownership, income range, education, profession, what credit cards you have and what you read. You donít have to answer everything to get the warranty on your new TV. In fact, you donít even have to return the postcard. But if you do respond, the data is likely to be sold to data-gatherers like ChoicePoint and LexisNexis. Your identity data will be sold and resold, while more people can find out about you.
Identity Theft by Phishing
There are thousands of phishing attacks each month. Each attack could involve millions of emails. The email pretends to be from a financial institution or a well-known company like eBay. It will ask you to click a link and verify your account information. The link takes you to a phony site, disguised as the legitimate company, where your personal information is gathered for illegal purposes.
Identity Theft from ATM Machines
Even the ATM machine could be stealing your bank data. There are portable, private ATMs found in small stores and businesses that can hijack your data. Use an ATM machine from a recognized bank, and donít let bystanders watch what you do.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- To protect yourself from identity theft, check your Credit Report. Any request for credit in your name will go through one of the big three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. By law you are entitled to one free copy a year, but thatís not enough. Many banks offer a paid subscription service called PrivacyGuard, which provides unlimited copies of your credit report. PrivacyGuard will notify you within 24 hours whenever a store account or credit card account is opened in your name.
If you are the victim of identity theft, you can put a freeze on your credit history. A credit freeze bars the bureaus from issuing your credit history, the summary of loans and payments that forms the basis of your credit score. If the ID thief tries to open a new account in your name, lenders who check credit scores will disallow the new account.
- To protect yourself from identity theft, Keep Your Social Security Number Private.
The less information you give out, the better. Certain institutions have the authority to insist on your Social Security number, like your employer, state motor vehicle office, welfare office, tax departments, banks and brokerage houses.
But it is hard to keep your number private, when it is widely used in business as an ID number. Your doctor, insurance company, school, it seems like everyone will insist that you provide the number. And often they wonít take No for an answer. Ask them how theyíll use it and how they keep it safe. Donít give it away to just anyone.
- Protect Your Computer.
Donít store your passwords electronically. Be careful what files, if any, you download. Unsupervised children often download Spyware along with free games and free music. Assume that any email that asks you for personal information is a fraud. If you want to check your accounts online, type the site address in the browser window, rather than click on an email link. If you think a site is fraudulent, you can report it the Internet Crime Complaint Center www.ic3.gov.
Before you discard your old computer, use a software program to wipe the hard drive clean. Then remove the hard drive from the computer and physically destroy it.
- Keep Track of Your Bills.
If a credit card bill doesnít show up in your mailbox when you expect it, your account could have been hijacked in an identity theft. You do scrutinize those credit card statements, donít you? How else will you know when those free checks from the credit card company have been stolen and used in your name? How else will you know if the waiter at the restaurant skimmed your credit card number? Or if a stranger on a public wireless hot spot picked up your credit card number?
- Reconcile Your Bank Statement Every Month. Then you will know if someone stole your identity and cashed a fraudulent check in your name. Almost half of all bank statements are not reconciled by the owner. You can recover the loss from the bank, if you report any fraud in a timely manner. If you donít watch out for your money, who will?
- Keep Your Mail Safe.
Use a locked mailbox if possible. If you live in a high crime area, rent a Post Office box as your mailing address. Donít leave your outgoing mail sitting in an unlocked home mailbox. Raising that red flag on the mailbox alerts the thief to a possible opportunity for identity theft. Instead, deposit outgoing mail in a Post Office mailbox.
- Shred All Your Paperwork. One morning I caught someone stealing my garbage bags from my driveway. All the paperwork inside had been shredded, but I was still worried. The new shredders can handle computer disks and credit cards along with papers.
- Keep Your Private Stuff Private.
To protect yourself from identity theft, donít keep more credit cards than you need or use. Keep your bills and bank statements where the repairman or casual visitors cannot easily find them. Donít leave IDs and credit cards in the glove compartment of your car where they can be stolen.
As a backup in case of loss, make copies of all your Ids and credit cards. Keep the copies in a secure location, too.
Do You Need Identity Theft Insurance?
You probably don't need
identity theft insurance. Consumer Reports
said that identity theft insurance policies are one of the 10 types of insurance policies you donít need. You already have rights by law that protect you in the event your identity is stolen. If your credit card is stolen, by law you have 30 days to notify the card issuer. You will not be responsible for any fraudulent charges made on the stolen card. Even if you donít notify them within 30 days, the most youíre responsible for is $50.
When your identity is stolen, the real cost is the anguish and time lost while you try to get restitution from the bank or credit card company and to restore your good name.
I hope life brings you much success.
I wish you a very happy day.
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